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Learning and Teaching Handbook

2.6.3: Academic progress procedure - undergraduate and postgraduate

Principles

1.      Students registered on taught programmes of study at undergraduate and postgraduate levels are required to make satisfactory academic progress in their studies and fulfil their academic commitments.  Making satisfactory progress usually involves completing work assignments and attending compulsory classes.  Precise requirements for making satisfactory academic progress are defined for each individual module and the details of these are published in either the Faculty Handbook (for undergraduate students) or Postgraduate Module Catalogue (for taught postgraduate students).  Departments should also include in their department/programme handbooks general text on the requirements to demonstrate appropriate academic progress.
2.      A student may fail to make satisfactory progress for a number of reasons: as a result of personal problems which are preventing him/her from concentrating on the work, poor time management or simple laziness. If a student fails to fulfil his/her academic commitments it is important that the reason for this is established as quickly as possible so that appropriate action can be taken: this may mean advising the student to seek medical or other help or it may involve disciplinary procedures. In many cases a mixture of approaches is required, combining support with firmness.
3.      The Academic Progress procedure is intended to:

• implement the provisions for Academic Progress outlined in General Regulation V:  http://www.dur.ac.uk/university.calendar/volumei/general_regulations/academic_progress/ ;
• identify those students who are not making appropriate academic progress;
• ascertain why these students are at risk of not completing their programme, make appropriate support available where available and practicable, and set clear milestones for the return of these students to making satisfactory academic progress;
• and where it was not possible for the student to make this satisfactory progress, and/or it was clear that it was not in the best interests of the student or the University for him/her to continue with his/her programme, to require such a student to withdraw.

4.      Departments and colleges should note:

• that where the Academic Progress procedure has not been invoked and there is no other evidence of grave cause a concession will not normally be granted for the student to repeat the year of study as it will be assumed that the student's progress during the year has been satisfactory;
• the process for applying for a concession for a grace period for a student who is suffering from circumstances beyond his/her control (Learning and Teaching Handbook, section 2.3.7).

Procedure

5.      The following procedure should be followed if the Head of Department wishes to invoke General Regulation V - Academic Progress with regard to a particular student.

6.      The following are the designated officers for the Academic Progress procedure:

Arts and Humanities:

Undergraduates

Chair of FEC (Undergraduate)

 

Postgraduates

Chair of FEC (Postgraduate)

Science:

Undergraduates

Deputy to the Head of Faculty (Natural Sciences)

 

Postgraduates

Chair of FEC (Postgraduate)

Social Sciences and Health:

Undergraduates

Chair of FEC (Undergraduate)

 

Postgraduates

Chair of FEC (Postgraduate)

For undergraduate students the requests should be sent to the relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) c/o the appropriate Faculty Office.  For postgraduate students the request should be sent to the Deputy to the Head of Faculty (Postgraduate) c/o the Academic Support Office.

Initial monitoring

7.      The department responsible for a module (i.e. the department to which a module is coded) is responsible for monitoring the progress of all students on the module, against the requirements published in the Faculty Handbook or Postgraduate Module Catalogue (as appropriate).

8.      If a student is not making appropriate academic progress, the head of department (or in the case of Combined Honours the Director) or nominee shall issue in writing (which may include email) a departmental warning noting that if the student does not start to make appropriate academic progress (to be clearly identified in the departmental warning) by a specified date then the faculty will be requested to issue an Academic Progress Notice (APN).

9.      The departmental warning will also invite the student to meet with a representative of the department issuing the warning.  Careful records must be kept of all contact with the student in respect of his/her failure to fulfil academic commitments.

10.  The department issuing the departmental warning will copy this warning to all the departments in which the student is taking a module (and in the case of Combined Honours and Natural Sciences the relevant programme office).  The departmental warning will also be copied to the student's college, and the senior tutor will offer to see the student.

Academic Progress Notice

11.  If the student does not meet the requirements of the departmental warning, the head of the department that has issued the warning will send a written request that an APN be issued.  This request should be made using the proforma at Appendix A2.03 (to which a copy of the departmental warning issued to the student should be attached) (telephone requests will not be accepted) to the appropriate relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) . This will state:

a.  the grounds for raising concerns about the student's academic progress;
b.      the academic requirements which the student must fulfil according to a stated timetable within a period of normally not less than four weeks. The purpose of this is to ensure that the student has caught up any work missed and/or has regained the habit of regular study. The period of four weeks may extend over 2 terms. It may not extend across academic years.  The APN period may not extend over the pre-examination period of the Easter Term for undergraduates or over the last 4 weeks of the dissertation period for taught postgraduates.

The head of department should ensure that the Academic Adviser of the student for whom an APN has been requested is notified that this request has been made, to allow the Adviser where appropriate to offer advice or support to the student.

12.  The latest date by which departments may request the faculty to issue an APN is:

a.      for undergraduate students:  the end of the 6th week of the Epiphany Term;
b.      for taught postgraduates:  the end of the 9th week before the submission of the dissertation.

13.  On receipt of the request the relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) will, normally within the next working day, check with other relevant departments, including the Director of Combined Honours/Natural Sciences if appropriate, whether they have concerns about the student which would lead them to wish to be associated with the APN.  If they do, this must be confirmed immediately in writing to the relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) stating clearly:

a.      the grounds for wishing to be associated with the process:
b.      the academic requirements which the student must fulfil within the stated period.

14.  The relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) will issue a letter to the student normally within three working days of receiving the request.  For undergraduate students and full-time postgraduate students this letter will be sent to their term-time address (with a copy to their home address, if the letter is sent near the end of term).  For part-time postgraduate students this letter will be sent to their correspondence address as notified to the Academic Support Office.  All categories of student will also receive a copy of the letter by email to their Durham email address.  Copies will be sent as outlined below:

Undergraduate Students: Heads of Departments and Secretaries of all departments in which the student is taking one or modules College Senior Tutor, Director of Combined Honours/ Deputy to the Head of Faculty - Natural Sciences (where appropriate) Postgraduate Students: Heads of all Departments concerned with the student. Supervisor or Course Director  College Senior Tutor (where appropriate)

15.  The relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) will require the student in the APN letter:

a.      to seek advice in the department(s) named in the letter about his/her academic work;                                                                                                                                                  b.      to make an appointment to talk to him/her within one week.  This is to ensure that any problems which the student is experiencing can be discussed and that the student understands the importance of maintaining an effective study routine. It may be necessary to warn the student that a failure to meet the requirements specified in the APN letter could result in expulsion from the University;
c.      to make any relevant information concerning serious adverse circumstances known to the department(s) concerned as soon as possible and prior to the end of the penultimate week of the APN period at the latest. This will allow the department(s) to make an informed recommendation to the relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) about the student's progress. The student may also make an appointment to see the relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) during the last week of the APN period to offer such information to him/her;
d.      to confirm receipt of the letter in writing (a standard reply form is enclosed).

16.  Following the receipt of their copy of the relevant senior faculty officer's (as listed in paragraph 6) letter to the student, the student's College Senior Tutor shall write to the student requiring him/her to make an appointment to talk to him/her within one week.

17.  One week prior to the expiry of the APN period the relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) will ask the departments associated with it to make a recommendation on further action taking into account any serious adverse circumstances viz:

a.      that the student's academic progress has improved sufficiently for there to be no need for continued monitoring of his/her performance;
b.      that the student's academic progress  has improved but that concern remains;
c.      that the student has not fulfilled the academic commitments required and therefore should be asked to withdraw from the University.  The department(s) is required to reply normally within one working day of the date of the expiry of the period specified in the APN letter.

18.  A request that a student be required to withdraw from the University under General Regulation V - Academic Progress must be made to the relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6):

a.      for undergraduate students:  no later than the Wednesday of the first week of the Easter Term;
b.      for taught postgraduate students:  no later than 4 weeks before the submission date for the dissertation.

19.  The relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) shall consider the departmental reports and will normally decide:

a.      either that the student has demonstrated that he/she has returned to making appropriate academic progress;
b.      or that the student has failed to demonstrate his/her return to making appropriate academic progress and should be required to withdraw from the University.  In exceptional circumstances only, the relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) may decide to extend the period of the APN for a period of up to a further 4 weeks.  Where a relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) is considering either requiring a student to withdraw, or extending the period of the APN, he/she shall consult with the student's college to ascertain whether there is any mitigating evidence of which he/she should be aware before reaching their final decision.

20.  The relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) will inform the student of his/her decision in writing (with a copy of the letter sent to the student's Durham email address) with copies as above. Where the decision is an extension of the APN period the student will be advised to seek further advice from the relevant department(s) and his/her college, and may also make an appointment to speak to the relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6); where the decision is that the student should withdraw, the letter will include information on the academic appeals procedures.

21.  The relevant senior faculty officer (as listed in paragraph 6) may write to a student at the request of the department or college after the deadlines specified in paragraphs 12 and 18 above to warn him/her that his/her academic progress is sufficiently poor to raise concern that he/she may fail his/her assessments.  The letter should draw the student's attention to the possible consequences of this and remind him/her of the sources of support available.

22. Where a student has been subject to an APN and has successfully met the terms of this APN, departments should pay particular attention to monitoring the academic progress of this student for the remainder of the academic year in which the APN was issued and in the subsequent academic year.

23.  A set of correspondence on each case will be maintained by the appropriate faculty office or, for postgraduates, Academic Support Office.